You who believe! Do not put (yourselves) forward before Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him), and fear Allah. Verily! Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Qur’an, 49:1)

SURAH Hujurat opens with Allah’s command to the Believers not to interrupt the Prophet’s conversations or obstinately contradict him (peace be upon him). Instead, they are advised to fear Allah by being patient and to obey the Prophet (peace be upon him) by following him in all their affairs.

Respect for the Prophet (peace be upon him) and what he had to say is portrayed as an expression of the fear of Allah because the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not speak of his own accord. He was guided by Allah; therefore, his statements and actions should be looked at as divine guidance from Allah.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the means by which Allah chose to convey His last message to mankind. This vital point was emphasized and immortalized by Allah in the following verse:

“And, he (the Prophet) does not speak from his desires; verily, what he says is revelation from (God).” (Qur’an, 53:3)

We are required to revere the Qur’an and quietly listen to its message based on Allah’s statement, “When the Qur’an is being recited, listen to it attentively and be quiet.” (Qur’an, 7:204) We are also required to revere the Prophet (peace be upon him) and listen attentively to his pronouncements. Ibn Abbas, the greatest Qur’anic commentator among the Sahabah, added another dimension to the meaning of this verse and similar verses by interpreting it to mean that the Believers should not say anything which goes against the Qur’an and Sunnah. (Quoted by lbn Katheer in his Tafsir, vol. 4, p. 315)

Figuratively speaking, one is in Allah’s presence when he or she reads the Qur’an, and likewise when the Ahadith which describes the Prophet’s Sunnah is studied, one also enters into the presence of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Hence, “Allah and His Prophet’s presence” can be said to refer today to the Qur’an and Sunnah.

Forwardness and haste in Allah’s and His Prophet’s presence could then be interpreted to mean the making of snap judgments based on superficial reading or making unauthorized and unfounded interpretations of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Giving one’s personal opinions or cultural habits precedence over the divine commands of the Qur’an and Sunnah also represents another aspect of forwardness in Allah’s and His Prophet’s presence. Great care has to be taken when explaining the principles of Islam in order that no statements contrary to those of Allah and His Messenger are inadvertently made which may consequently lead people astray.

If at any time ideas in opposition to the Qur’an and the Sunnah are held and clear proofs of their inaccuracy are later presented, a true Believer is required to immediately give up his or her mistaken concepts and submit to the authentic commands of Allah and His Messenger. If one does otherwise, claiming his ideas and practices were that of his forefathers, he would be, in fact, no better than the pagans of Makkah who replied to the Prophet’s call to One God by saying, “Verily, we found our forefathers on this path and we Intend to follow their steps.” (Qur’an, 13:22)

He would also be guilty of the crime of “believing in a part of the Book and disbelieving in a part” (Qur’an, 2:85); a crime for which Allah cursed the Jews. Instead, one should, “Obey Allah and obey the Messenger” (Qur’an, 3:32) without the least hesitation otherwise one’s Islam, which itself means submission to Allah and His Apostle, would be in question.

Allah then closes the verse with a reminder to fear Him at all times, for it is only the consciousness of Allah, longing for His pleasure and a fear of His displeasure, which can create a real and lasting improvement of human habits. The verse is then sealed with two of Allah’s qualities both of which produce a state of real God consciousness in all who comprehend their implications.

Allah is the Hearer of all statements, plans, or plots and He is the Knower of the secret intentions behind all deeds. His knowledge knows no bounds of time and space. Hence, any disrespect shown to Allah and his Prophet (peace be upon him), His Qur’an, and the Sunnah is known to Allah; and those who dare to commit such acts will be held to account for them.

– Excerpt from the writer’s book ‘Tafseer Soorah Al-Hujuraat’
– Bilal Philips